Like a rock opera, Andrew Falkowski’s latest solo show, “In/Side/Out” at Adds Donna has impressive range, raw edges and unmistakable style. Falkowski, who has established a reputation for hard-edged, loud-mouthed, text-based paintings, has expanded his idioms in this latest show, and the result is a tightly knit dialogue between at least five distinct modes of working. And yet, despite this spectrum, as a whole the show presents as distinctly cool and graphic, sipping from the same aesthetic can of Coke as clunky eighties video games, skate art or album covers. But don’t let their hipness fool you, this is highly sophisticated work, engaged in a material sleight-of-hand and offering poetic enigmas.
Connections between the work crisscross and double back across the space like a bright red laser-beam net from a spy movie. The debris pile hidden in an annex, it turns out, is an installation composed of the broken-down elements from the other pieces in the show, and the dusty blue tape and broken chain are hand-cast acrylic paint and plaster. Toward the middle of the room, a plastic Tupperware container sits atop a custom-built, bright yellow pedestal, the canary coloring of which repeats in the painting “Opposites and Coexisting” which hangs nearby. The plastic container of this twenty-first-century Sybil’s cauldron is filled with sentences culled from song lyrics, magazines, ads and other quotidian sources, whose mystic poetry Falkowski ekes from what most of us dismiss as the grasping white noise of capitalist mainstream culture. All across the show, acrylic paint, mimetically indistinguishable from twine, rope, garbage bags and varieties of tape, is not used to “paint” formal abstractions, but to bind, wrap and cover. Even the space itself, the walls and the architecture of the room, have been brought into consideration, sometimes even “patched up,” as in “Tape Intervention.” Falkowski treats painting as an art that not only reveals or shows, but also mends, and hides.
Meanwhile, the surfaces of the work range from carefully mottled, like the painterly surface of “Blue Tondo,” to alternatively bumpy, rough, smooth and plasticky like in the collage painting “Thing” that hangs across the room. We are asked to consider what lies beneath these coatings of paints as significantly as the paint itself. Metaphorically, Falkowski seems to insinuate, by this attention to substrate, that who we become is the accumulated sediment of who we have been. Falkowski, at times, allows a splotch of paint, or a brushstroke to show, and at others the artist’s subjectivity remains totally hidden behind hermeneutically smooth airbrushed edges. This is work whose nuances must be seen in-person, despite its deceivingly satisfying-to-photograph high-contrast formalism.
Perhaps most striking, or at least certainly the largest piece in this show, is a giant white chain, each link individually handmade, still bearing the slightly rough edges of tedious sanding. This “In/Side/Out Tondo” is stretched on nails into a portal-sized circle. When we look straight at it, we look straight through it and at the wall. When we look at the perimeter, we find ourselves looking, again, at (or through, as it may be) linked-up voids. Like a black hole, the perimeter of the chain simultaneously sucks you in and spits you out. You are forced to consider that each link in the chain, like the words in the collaged piece “Things” hanging close by, hold no meaning until carefully attached to the next link. Each link, piece by piece, building upon the next to create a whole. Stretched taut, this chain implies certitude but as it melts onto the floor, it reveals the formless truth. Falkowski asks us to pay attention to how we look, and not just with our eyes, but with our souls and our minds.
Andrew Falkowski, “In/Side/Out” at Adds Donna, 3252 West North. Through November 19.